An Afternoon in Tiong Bahru

I’ve just spent my afternoon practising my Mandarin in a bakery around the corner from my home. One of the many pleasures of Tiong Bahru is the omnipresence of cafés and quaint stores, although hardly void of old school Singapura. As I sat and read, many people come and go. Two young tourists teared up as they wrote postcards home; a couple sat in the back corner using the wifi to stream movie; Aunties played on the fake grass with grandbabies – theirs and expats’.

As I wander home, my journey is as always slowed by the curve of the old estate buildings. Built in 1936 the Heritage Estate that is supposedly modelled off aircraft wings is infamously known for the beautiful white and red curving blocks that lead me home. The lack of straight footpaths seems to at first forcibly and then voluntarily make one slow as they wander through the streets between boutiques and homes. A strange mindfulness brought by the quiet sounds of a slow afternoon. The slap of my flip flops I’m only just becoming used to wearing all day; the scraping of plastic places, as Lee’s Hainanese Curry Rice closes for the afternoon; the laughter of Chinese Aunties that gather for tea.

Wandering around another corner, I get glimpses of Chinese shrines with incense ever burning and the faint smell of fruit and 金紙 (gold paper) offerings being burnt to the ancestors.

True to form it is very hot but thankfully there is a slight breeze that removes the usual discomfort of the afternoon air. The breeze brings the sound of the uncountable number of official and unofficial Singaporean flags that flap on every building as the whole city anxiously awaits the National Day next week. The Community Centre has managed to even fit in white and red fairy lights over top of its large and bunting sized flags. In the distance, the fighter jets can be heard practising in formation for next week’s grand display.

A gesture of the pride of being Singaporean, a gesture I appreciate more and more each day as I fall deeper and deeper in love with her.


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